As Kieran Trippier showed signs he is fitting into Diego Simeone’s mould, Eden Hazard struggled to make an impact in his first Madrid derby. Michael Hincks was at the Wanda Metropolitano to watch the duo in action as Atletico Madrid held city rivals Real Madrid to a goalless draw.
Real go top of La Liga after Atletico drawAs it happened | La Liga table
Trippier in the thick of it
The former Tottenham full-back has enjoyed his fair share of London derbies in the past, and he was heavily involved in his first taste of El Derbi action in the Spanish capital on Saturday night.
His evening was almost over after three minutes when Hazard backed into him and left the right-back needing treatment, but he shrugged off that early problem to continue his promising early-season form.
It was a difficult balancing act, keeping tabs on Hazard while also serving as an attacking outlet out wide, but Trippier spun both plates admirably.
He kept Hazard quiet, at times dragging the Belgian back to do defensive work of his own, while Real left-back Nacho – booked in the first half – struggled to cope with Trippier’s advances.
Trippier’s night in stats
Only Thomas Partey (97) touched the ball more times for Atletico than Trippier (78), who played one key pass and had two successful dribbles, while one cross from eight found a team-mate. Defensively, he made one tackle and three clearances. Per whoscored.com
The disappointment for Trippier will be that only one of his eight crosses found a team-mate, while the gaps he left when attacking could have been exposed by a more polished Real front line.
On another night, he could have got an assist, but on another night he could have perhaps been culpable for a Real goal on the counter.
However, just seven league games into life as a defender under Diego Simeone, it is clear he is getting to grips with the ways and methods of one of football’s most demanding coaches.
Hazard off the boil
While Trippier is already endearing himself to the Atletico fans, Real’s supporters will have to exercise patience with Hazard.
It is not a trait the Bernabeu faithful are known for, and while they will soon start to demand much more of their £88m man, there were signs again on Saturday night that Hazard is not yet at full fitness.
The Belgian looked off the pace throughout, and it was his misplaced pass which set Atletico on their way to their best chance of the first half, which Joao Felix sent wide.
Hazard’s night in stats
Hazard had zero shots, played two key passes with an overall passing accuracy of 77.5% – the lowest of any Real player. He is dispossessed twice, and had three bad controls – a joint match-high with Atletico’s Vitolo. Per whoscored.com
His night ended in the 77th minute when he was replaced by James Rodriguez, having failed to get a shot away and recording one successful dribble to Trippier’s two.
With a wealth of attacking options, particularly out wide, it will be intriguing to see how much game-time Hazard gets in the coming weeks as the former Chelsea star looks to regain his sharpness.
The Spanish press: ‘Hazard never showed up’
‘Is it time to say that Hazard isn’t performing well enough?’ asked Spanish paper Marca.
Marca journalist Journalist Ruben Jimenez said: “Eden Hazard is still waiting to explode. He’s lacking pace, form and is still being afforded excuses. A player who cost 100 million euros needs to do more or, at the very least, something. He never showed up at the Wanda Metropolitano.”
Sergio Santos Chozas, AS journalist, wrote: “A bad day at the office for the Belgian. Only managed to come up with one sparkling move, beating Savic in the first half. He’s far from close to being fully fit, which hampers him when trying his classic diagonal runs looking for a shot.”
La Liga: More than a three-horse race?
It’s early days, of course, but La Liga’s big three of Real, Atletico and holders Barcelona have not had it all their way so far this season.
Few could have predicted Granada would be in the mix in late September, but a win over Leganes saw them momentarily top the table on Saturday before Real’s draw.
14 – Granada have won 14 points from seven #LaLiga games this season, their best ever start to a top-flight season. Outstanding#Granadacf @LaLiga pic.twitter.com/m5o4OZ8o3Z
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 28, 2019
Meanwhile, it could be Real Sociedad who occupy first come the end of the weekend.